On safari in the Congo

https://www.safaritart.com/on-safari-in-congo/Written by: Carrie Hampton alias the SAFARI TART!

Seasoned travellers will be interested in the Odzala Discovery Camps in the Odzala-Kokoua National Park of the remote north of the Republic of Congo’s river basin. It’s the world’s second largest tropical rainforest after the Amazonand one of the earth’s largest lungs, playing an essential role in global climate control. The region has been a National Park since 1935 – making it one of the oldest on the African continent.

Odzala has other faces than the rainforest with vast savannah in the south and wide, meandering rivers crossing the region. A distinctive feature of Odzala are marshy clearings in the middle of an ocean of trees called bais. Even the shiest inhabitants of Odzala like forest elephants and gorillas come here to drink and take in precious minerals and salts contained in the bai soils.

Birds, Mammals and Primates
Over 400 bird species and 100 different mammal species are found here, including western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees and red-tailed monkeys along with forest buffalo, sitatunga (a rare sight anywhere on safari) and duikers antelopes not much larger than rabbits. Herds of shy forest elephant move along ancient pathways, avoiding the 70 villages, some with just a handful of inhabitants. The local people are primarily Bantu and forest dwellers (pygmies).

There are three camps; Ngaga, Mboko and Lango. 

Ngaga Camp in primary forest just outside the park boundary, overlooks a beautiful open glade and is within overlapping ranges of several groups of western lowland gorillas. Two of the gorilla groups are becoming habituated to being watched. It’s a focal point for world-class research and gives unforgettable primate encounters. Ngaga Camp’s unique design evokes the fun of childhood tree houses, with six canopy rooms with wraparound walkways.

Mboko Camp has 12 guest rooms extending along the banks of a tributary watering a lush meadow-like savannah. It’s the interface between tropical rainforest and grasslands, with hundreds of towering termite mounds creating an other-worldly panorama. Watch out for the forest buffalo, forest elephant and spotted hyena.

Lango Camp with it’s six bedrooms has one of the most arresting views of any camp in Africa! Raised high the camp spans the forest gallery and beyond to the marshy bai, which holds a magnetic attraction to huge flocks of green pigeons and grey parrots, as well as herds of forest buffalo by day and forest elephants by night. In the south-central part of Odzala with its variety of converging habitats and rivers, the highlight is travelling on the waters in by motorboat, traditional mokoro or kayak and exploring the streams and marshes on foot in safety – a truly immersive experience!

One thing’s for sure – you will be one of very few who have visited this remote area and if you get there before me, I’ll be very jealous.

 

How to get guests in your bed – a strategic guide to get more bookings

Analyse clients

Written by Mqondisi Gumede, Man and Machine

One of the difficulties of marketing in travel is that it is a very large place that boasts an incredible array of beauty. It is a never ending pageant of scenery, culture, beauty, culinary delight, diverse experiences and accommodation establishments at their best décor and service.

In such a situation, most hoteliers will have found that, as justifiably proud of their establishment’s charms as they are, there are other establishments with different but no less compelling offers to potential guests.

In this situation, what are hoteliers to do? Our response is to develop a strategy.

One of the hallmarks of strategy is to answer the question ‘WHO?’ first, before you answer the question ‘WHAT and HOW?’ (To understand why this order is important, I make the argument in the post – A strategic marketing approach to get a date ahead of Brad Pitt. In essence being tactical, approaching this problem from a first ‘WHAT’ and ‘HOW’ perspective, will render you far less likely to succeed than approaching the challenge from a first ‘WHO’ then ‘WHAT’ approach.

Gaining clarity on who for all businesses, especially hotels, has so far been a very difficult affair. Recent conversations have pinned hopes on big data, hoping that, if businesses had more data they would be better at generating insight. Nothing could be further from the truth. All that we have today are businesses that have a greater amount of data but generally still have the same scarcity of insight.

In your pursuit of understanding the ‘WHO’, it is important to focus on insight. Here are the 2 main reasons:

1) WHY is the power.

In the movie The Matrix Reloaded, Neo (the One) goes to visit the Merivingian. An entertaining passage of dialogue ensues that culminates in the Merivingian asking Neo: “Why?” The star of the movie hesitates and offers no answer, the Merivingian, incredulous, admonishes him saying:

“…Why is the only real source of power, without it you are powerless. And this is how you come to me: without why, without power, another link in the chain.”

Then, he dismisses him in the following fashion:

“But, fear not, since I have seen how good you are at following orders, I will tell you what to do next. Run back, and give the fortune-teller this message:…”

In the world of appeal, nothing can be more valuable than understanding why people do what they do. Imagine how you could change your marketing, your Facebook page, your website, if you knew why people travelled at all and why they choose the travel experience providers they do.

This is perhaps the most important prerequisite to being able to have a compelling offer in a crowded travel and tourism industry, if you can understand the why of the people that are likely predisposed to choosing your establishment.

As difficult as it is, there is no greater guarantee of success in marketing, online or not, but locating the reasons, the why, of your target market’s travel choices. This may not be the fastest or easiest route but it is the surest route to marketing and booking success:

2) Start by getting a better understanding of the people who have stayed with you before.
Many businesses go after more and more data when they do not use the current data they have to gain rich insight which remain the same even if they analysed 100 times the data.

To avoid this huge missed opportunity, think of all the people that have booked at your establishment and all the conversations you’ve had, all the reviews and social media mentions that you’ve read about your establishment and answer the following questions.

i. Try and list the 3 largest groups of people that emerge.
ii. Once listed ask yourself and/or key members of your team, why they chose your establishment?
Once you have the first answer, ask “why is that important?” and as you get an answer repeat the process for 5 whys.

If you don’t get beyond 2 or 3 whys, it signals that there is some work to do in understanding the motivations of your targeted audience and would not keeping your marketing activity to a moderate level until you can have this conversation very casually with your new guests over the course of the next weeks.

Once you can get to 4 or 5 whys for the top groups that stay with you, you will now understand why they travel and why they make the travel choices that they do.

This insight, will start to shed light on who your audiences are and the best way to prosper in trying to appeal to them.

In our next blog post we’ll discuss how to apply this new found power. If you feel you need more detailed analysis, we at Man&Machine combine the understanding of people, strategy, marketing and digital and put them together in a way that works best to get you more guests to your establishment. We will be able to apply a host of techniques that can provide you with a clearer view of the people who have stayed at your establishment as one of the inputs to greater marketing efficacy in the online space.

www.manandmachine.solutions

 

 

SATSA conference highlights

Written by Natasha Bame

I had the privilege this year to attend the annual SATSA conference which was hosted at the Fancourt hotel in George. It was an ideal opportunity to get to know our partners and other tour operators personally, putting names to faces and building the relationships. Also, it was a great space to meet all sorts of different folk related to tourism and keep up to date with the trends and frustrations of the industry.

The content was relevant and the format of panel discussions allowed for everyone to have their say. The great rates debate had everyone agreeing that we have to continue to hold in tension, the old and the new ways of doing business – using dynamic and static rates where appropriate and accepting that there is still a need for hard copy brochures along with a greater online presence.

We discussed our part in conserving Africa’s wildlife and the value of emerging markets. Transformation and responsible tourism were key threads which provoked delegates to think about what impact they can make – right where we are, in our businesses.

All in all it was a well rounded couple of days, witnessing the relationships which have formed through the association and learning more about the different players in the game. In the minister of tourism’s address we were encouraged to keep going despite the challenges within the sector, and to continue to partner with each other as we do business.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Jack and the bean sprout’ | explaining electronic connections

Written by Alex Moore

For the non techy ‘Jacks’ amongst us, it’s not so easy to get our heads around how electronic connections work and we definitely don’t want to be left behind in this fast moving online world.

To try and explain the concept for those who unfamiliar with tech terms, we have drawn out the elements of connections to show how they link together.

API (application program interface)
Wikipedia defines an API as “[A] software component in terms of its operations, inputs, outputs, and underlying types. An API defines functionalities that are independent of their respective implementations, which allows definitions and implementations to vary without compromising the interface. A good API makes it easier to develop a program by providing all the building blocks. A programmer then puts the blocks together.”

API’s were designed as technical communication tools to communicate between servers, programs or applications and to push existing information from one application to another.

The bridge
The bridge is a link or router that connects an API call to the principal/client (database) for which it’s supposed to be. So when an API call comes in, the bridge will know where the ResRequest client database is for that call and will route it to the appropriate server and database.

Sprout
Sprout is an API converter/translator and it’s designed to store information and act as communicator between our API, ResConnect and others, such as NightsBridge‘s and SynXis‘ API. It has ‘push’ and ‘pull’ data functionality. With NightsBridge and SynXis APIs, Sprout allows NightsBridge and SynXis to pull information such as stock, rates and even create reservations. It can store up to two years of client availability and will update all transferred information every 5mins.

ResConnect
ResConnect is the service offered by ResRequest – this is our API which gives specialist agents and tour operators access to live availability and rates of ResRequest clients, by electronically communicating with their own internal systems and even offering the functionality to book.

OTA’s and GDS’ via channel managers
To get stock even more wider spread – online travel agents (OTA) such as Bookings.com and Expedia and global distribution systems (GDS) like Amadeus, can display ResRequest client inventory via a channel manager. We interface to Nightsbridge to place your rooms on these online platforms.

Going forward, we hope that you may not be too daunted to get involved with the possibilities that this magical ‘bean sprout’ has to offer.

Our future development plans include an upgrade of the user interface and sprout update failure notifications.

Introducing our new release CENTAURI

We are excited to announce our version 6.0 release, named CENTAURI. In this release are behind-the-scenes changes, including an upgrade from PHP4 to PHP5 and a database change from MySQL to MariaDB. This forms the foundation for lots of great, new modules already in development.

Also in this release is a graphics facelift. Our new graphics have been inspired by Google for a simpler, modern look, which includes new buttons, larger fonts and vector icons. Here’s a snapshot…

 

 

Have you ever wondered why we name our releases? For years creative software developers have developed code names for their releases. It’s about creative thinking, creating excitement about a release and synergising a vision for a new phase of a product.

Where our release name, Centauri, comes from. We feel that the stars evoke a desire to explore, they conjure feelings of creativity and magic. The stars inspire us with extremes of myth and science, total control but completely random and beautiful. From the name of the closest star to our solar system, Centauri was the perfect choice for this release. Of course, the fact that every geek is totally fascinated with Vulcans, Romulans, Clones and Ewoks certainly helped!

Our Centauri launch party was complete with glow in the dark decorations and gold-dusted chocolate brownies from Daniela’s.

 

Centauri highlights
Centauri includes great new features you’ll love. Look out for the locking of the calendar header, new report filters and an interface to Tally accounts. Here’s a sneak peek of what’s in store.

highlights

 

Full audit trail
Our crew are so excited about our audit trail enhancements that they’ve put a video together to show you what’s available to you in this release. With this nifty new enhancement you’ll be able to see details of all edits made to reservations. Along with a new report, this becomes a powerful tool for you to audit reservation changes.

audittrail

 


Tally Accounting interface

If you’re a fan of Tally Accounting solutions, we’ve got great news for you! This release introduces a financial interface to Tally Accounting systems. This means that if you use Tally, you can seamless batch and post your invoices from ResRequest into Tally.

Of course if you use great accounts products like Pastel and Quickbooks, we’ve already got those interfaces well implemented at several clients. Just give us a call to find out how you can streamline your business processes by posting your invoices and payments straight from ResRequest to these popular accounting apps.

 

New web app tracks the great wildebeest migration in real-time

Want to know where the wildebeest herds are? People planning to travel to Kenya and Tanzania for the Great Migration can now track one of nature’s most spectacular events even before they get there – via a web application called HerdTracker.

Created by Discover Africa, a leading tailor-made safari operator based in Cape Town, HerdTracker plots the exact position of the wildebeest herds on a real-time Google map, using weekly updates sent in by pilots flying over Kenya’s Masai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti, safari guides, Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) rangers and lodges in the area.

HerdTracker was designed and built by Discover Africa’s own web development team using open-source software in just two months, using the idea of their East Africa expert, Carel Verhoef, a qualified safari guide who has lived in the Serengeti for ten years.

Between 2003 and 2011 Verhoef led over 300 migration safaris, and developed a deep understanding of – and appreciation for the annual wildebeest migration. While living in Tanzania, Carel also climbed Kilimanjaro nine times. His 10th assent is scheduled for August 2014.

Co-founder of Discover Africa, Andre Van Kets says that the development of the app was not overly complex.

“We’ve used open source tools and Google Maps, which has an open API, although we used our own icons, not the standard set. We’ve combined that with the human element so we’re not just posting the GPS coordinates, but the comments of our guides too,” says Van Kets. He says that the main aim of HerdTracker is to help people choose the best accommodation to stay at and when to go to ensure that they don’t miss the Great Migration.

“A safari experience is a trip of a lifetime, which can be a complex process to plan for, especially for first timers.

“We’ve developed HerdTracker to help make the journey easier for our customers.

“It’s an incredible tool that allows you to not only track the great migration in real time, but predict where the herd will be at the time of your travel,” adds Van Kets.

How HerdTracker Works

HerdTracker is your usual Google Map, modified with little pins stamped with a wildebeest.  Each pin is clickable and displays a message by the person who has sent the update (Our sources listed above).

A recent update, sent in by Captain Joel J Fernandes, a pilot for Coastal Aviation in Tanzania and flies over the Serengeti daily reads: “Morning Carel, I’ve been back for 2 days now and you won’t believe the coincidence but I was planning to mail you right now. So, they are everywhere. The trailing end are at Kogatende airstrip and the leaders just went past Seronera. They are tonnes at Lobo and Fort Ikoma. I can’t believe it but these are what I saw personally in the 2 days of flying!!!‎ So good to be back. Pics attached. Have a good one’”

Another update, sourced by Lemala Camps, a company who owns a unique collection of Lodges, Permanent Tented Camps & Mobile Camps in Tanzania says: “Hi Carel, there was a small crossing, in that the beasts started to cross, but then the vulture activity on the far bank scared the remainder and the crossing stopped. The wildebeest then gathered for a few hours and around 16:30 they crossed. It was large and was about 45 min. We worked magic and your clients, Alex and partner, were there to see it so lovely timing. I don’t have pics of the big crossing because Tabby had to leave before they crossed. I can also inform you that right now there is another gathering of them at Makutano. Regards, Veronica.”

Van Kets says that they designed the app for browsing on your phone first, rather than for desktop computers.

“We designed it to be mobile first, because if you first build a desktop version and try to shrink it to mobile, it’s really difficult. It’s better to build it for a small screen and then scale it up,” says Van Kets.

Plans for the future? Discover Africa is considering building and designing an Android app that would send updates to its users without having to visit the website.

HerdTracker’s migration updates are available to see on https://www.discoverafrica.com/herdtracker.

They are also available on Twitter via the @HerdTracker handle.

For more information contact Andre Van Kets at andre@discoverafricagroup.com, or Carel Verhoef at carel@discoverafrica.com. Or call +27 21 422 3498

 

wildebeest1sm wildebeestsm

 

East Africa E-Tourism 2014 conference experience

Written by Jill Bennett-Howes

I arrived at Nairobi airport greeted by bright yellow walls and friendly customs attendants shouting ‘Jambo, Jambo’. I reminisced on my Kenya trip 9 years ago when we installed ResRequest at Governors’ Camps. At the time our greatest challenge was the modem dial up contending with at least 4 other voices shouting ‘Jambo, Jambo’ as we tried desperately to get a data transfer through.

As my taxi driver tore through the streets of Nairobi pointing out this building and that one, I was totally gobsmacked at how much the city has changed. I asked him which buildings were new and, it turns out, almost all the buildings! I oo’ed and aa’ed about all that had been built over the last 9 years. Everything looked, well similar to home, except for the adrenalin junkies sailing out of the bus doors as they spun round the massive round-a-bouts, which the taxi driver assured me was rather unusual.

I was blown away by the high rises and apartment blocks in Nairobi, granted my taxi driver may have taken me the best routes, but in that case, the taxi drivers have got better at tourism then they were years before!

As I saw and experienced parts of Nairobi and caught up with customers, I wildly started hash-tagging #WhyILoveKenya, of course it helped that I’ll be heading home 2kg’s heavier thanks to my room attendant, Edith. Edith loaded my bathroom full of bottles of lemon grass conditioner, after I left her a reply to her welcome note which read: “Thanks for my conditioner Edith, I love it!”  For some weird reason I feel compelled to Pinterest my hair after Damian’s states that 94% of Pinterest users are women.

conditioner

Speaking of Damian and the reason for this post, Damian Cook and his wife, Elizabeth,  put on an intense, action packed and totally at-the-heart-of-things E-Tourism conference for East Africa. After attending the Cape Town conference last year, and receiving rave reviews from our marketing manager after this year’s CT session, I was really excited. Once again, Damian did not disappoint. The conference was packed and Damian’s Kenyan customers were totally absorbed in the programme from beginning to end.

I was one of the lucky few who had the opportunity to present to the audience, which consisted of a number of our customers. What surprised me, and them, was how much rich functionality ResRequest has to offer. I was able to tell our story and was rewarded with several customers telling me that they’ll be heading back to their office to check out much of the functionality I mentioned.

Damian’s presentations were honest and right at the heart of the challenges we face. He paid particular attention to helping Kenyan customers understand, plan and implement a crisis management strategy around their current tourism crisis.

Of course I don’t know how long Edith’s conditioner supply will last so I sincerely hope that Damian plans the next E-Tourism conference soon.